Truths exposed? Michigan dodges first L, struggles mightily vs. Maryland's turtle power
Michigan faced its first real test of the season Saturday vs. Maryland.
Given their historic point-production through the first few weeks, most thought that the Wolverines would easily cruise past the Terps. However, some saw the game being a little bit closer.
The minority were correct.
Michigan barely clung to a 17-13 halftime lead before inching its way to a 34-27 victory at the Big House, aided by a 17-point final frame. Following the break, UM hadn’t scored another point until early in the fourth quarter, suffering through its longest scoring drought of the young season.
Saturday’s effort was a far cry from the high-flying, supercharged offense that was on display vs. Colorado State, Hawaii and UConn.
Several issues were exposed and things weren’t easy for Jim Harbaugh’s title-chasers, who were on a 3-game, 50-plus points streak.
Cool and damp field conditions.
About 10 minutes into the game, it became evident that the Wolverines were in for a difficult situation. They’re in need of a refresher before going to Kinnick Stadium next week and facing the Iowa Hawkeyes. If Saturday was considered a test, then Iowa is an oddly early final exam-like scenario.
Iowa will shove.
Let’s review some of the finer details that led Michigan to its second consecutive 4-0 start.
Get the shovels and dig
For the first time all season, the Wolverines found themselves in a hole — down 13-10 early in the second quarter — and if not for an iffy INT by DJ Turner, Maryland probably would have pushed for at least another field goal. The pressure was firmly applied to the No. 4-ranked team in the nation.
Normally money in the bank, UM kicker Jake Moody missed a 43-yarder — something he could hit in his sleep — that would have knotted the game at 13-13 late in the first half and provided a bit of relief.
With a 14-point fourth quarter, Maryland reminded UM that it wouldn’t go away without a tussle, which was impressive for this reason: Tai Felton botched the opening kickoff, giving Michigan the ball at the 10-yard line — and, in a sense, that was a freebie and a sign of things to come. The Wolverines capitalized via 10-yard TD toss from JJ McCarthy to TE Luke Schoonmaker. Prior to Schoonmaker’s TD, Michigan hadn’t scored on the first play of a game since 2020 (RB Zach Charbonnet vs. Minnesota).
So yeah, off the rip, things didn’t look good for the Terps. But they didn’t hide in their shell and will be a tough out for others in the Big Ten.
September Heisman (again)
I jokingly gave it to Corum in September 2021 and I’m doing it again this year
Michigan’s running game wasn’t at the same level it had been through the first 3 games, and that’s because Maryland had the best D-line Michigan has faced so far. The ankle injury to Donovan Edwards certainly didn’t help the Wolverines’ depth/performance. CJ Stokes’ fumble in the second quarter didn’t assist matters, either.
He’s done most of the work on the ground this year anyway, but it was Corum or bust on Saturday. His 33-yard TD helped Michigan to a 17-13 lead, ensuring that UM wouldn’t trail at the half for the first time since the Orange Bowl vs. Georgia.
His 132 first-half yards carried the Wolverines through the first 30 minutes, and his legs were a difference-maker in the second half. Corum finished with a career-high 30 carries for 243 yards and a pair of TDs (33, 47).
Corum, again, proved that he’s one of the most dangerous ball-carriers in the country. He can score from anywhere on the field, and it doesn’t take him long to find running room with his jet-like stride.
QB JJ McCarthy looked human
Rather than video-gaming his way through the day, like he had been able to do during the first 3 games, the sophomore had to scratch and claw in order to produce yardage and points. His game-opening, on-the-run, across-the-body 10-yard TD to Schoonmaker was his best throw of the afternoon.
In the second quarter, he had WR Roman Wilson streaking for what could have been 6 points — but McCarthy’s throw was about 4 yards too far and over the head of Wilson. Late in the third, he overthrew WR Andrel Anthony for a potential touchdown.
Through the first 3 quarters, McCarthy led UM to just 2 red-zone attempts and was sacked twice (17 yards lost). The Wolverines didn’t return to inside the 20-yard-line until the opening minute of the fourth quarter. His on-the-mark ball found Wilson for a 20-yard TD, pushing Michigan to a 24-17 lead in the fourth.
The Wolverines could have slammed the door late in the fourth, but McCarthy’s throw to Ronnie Bell was defended at the front left pylon, forcing a 38-yard field goal from Moody. Eventually, Michigan got it together, but it needed a mega-fourth quarter to dispose of Maryland.
Michigan has the means to compensate for McCarthy’s youth, defensive lapses and other mistakes. Again, the Wolverines were never said to be perfect after blowing out their first 3 opponents. Corum bailed out his teammates vs. Maryland, but he can’t be the only one to shine next week vs. the Hawkeyes.